Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have shown that graphene oxide foam can be an effective filter for uranium in drinking water.
Uranium can enter water sources from natural sediments in rocks or through waste from nuclear power plants or mining plants. There, the pollutant is invisible to the naked eye and even in small doses is harmful to human health.
To solve the problem, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology made a reusable filter from graphene oxide foam. It acts like a magnet for uranium, effectively pulling the radioactive element out of drinking water.
Before starting work, an electric charge is passed through the foam. This splits the water around her. The process produces hydrogen, which increases the pH of the water. This, in turn, causes a chemical change that attracts uranium ions to the surface of the foam. In this case, the element crystallizes into a previously unknown form of uranium hydroxide.
The study found that graphene oxide foam was so good at washing uranium out of water that it was drinkable by EPA standards within a few hours. What’s more, the foam can be cleaned and reused multiple times without losing its effectiveness.
The research is published in the journal Advanced Materials.